Blogs » Ni Howdy - Chinese for Texans » No More Twitter Fun


I am back from my travels and back on the grid, as much as the Great Firewall of China will allow me to be. Today and tomorrow are very important dates in the history of China. It has been 20 years since a student-led protest in Tiananmen Square ended in tragedy and a complete coverup by the government. In Mainland China it is as if this event has never happened.

Students in Chinese schools can quote you exact dates and details on the Opium War. Atrocities committed by invading Japanese forces in the late 1930s are recognized and rehashed incessantly. They can tell you all about the failings of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, many through personal family stories. In short, China's 5,000 years of history are well understood and studied in the schools. Except for a couple of events, chief among them the Tiananmen Square "incident."

The young Chinese I work with have close to zero knowledge of the event. They might have heard some vague stories, always referencing the "very poorly behaved students, many who had sought to harm China," but the truth is always concealed. Just about anyone in America will recognize that iconic photo of a student standing alone in front of a military tank. We all know what "Tiananmen" stands for. But not the Chinese youth. The "incident" has simply been wiped from history.

Not everyone has forgotten, however. Many student participants have fled China and have written moving accounts of those days. Others toil away in a China that punishes them with occasional house arrests, "questioning" and other discrimination. In Hong Kong, the anniversary will be remembered with marches and memorials. Those within China that know the truth keep quiet, silently remembering.

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary, which is seen as a major one, especially in a year that is also the 60th anniversary of the glorious founding of New China, government censors have attempted to wipe references to the incident from the Net. As of today, 3 June, we no longer have access to Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, Wordpress blogs, Blogspot blogs and individual articles concerning the anniversary on news websites have been blocked. Chinese websites and journalists are experiencing increased monitoring.

After six days in Hong Kong, sovereign Chinese territory but not subject to the same censorship rules, it was truly disappointing to return to Linyi to find access so restricted. I am not a happy China camper today.

We have no way of knowing how long the blockages will last. I hope not long. I suspect Twitter might never find the light of day again. But that is the way it is here, and as a foreign worker, I have chosen to be here. Frustrating as it is, I will have to endure. It only makes me appreciate what is just across the border all the more. (Make that any border but the one with North Korea!)

The good news is that I am back, rested and ready for blogging. I'm not sure why, but it always takes me a while to recover and digest my holiday experiences before I can share them on the blog. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about air travel in China.